by Sarah Dyer, Jenny Hill, and Helen Walkington
In the final chapter of the Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Geography we, the editors, propose four principles in which to ground university geography education for the future (Hill, Walkington, Dyer; 2019). These principles emerge from a synthesis of the discussion, evidence, and debate in the preceding 32 thematic chapters of the volume. The principles are: 1. Entering the pedagogic borderland; 2. Embracing partnership working; 3. Acknowledging the whole student; and, 4. Adopting courageous pedagogies. The full chapter is open access and can be found here.
1. Entering the pedagogic borderland
Pedagogic borderlands are unfamiliar educational spaces whose ‘novelty and ambiguity’ (p. 475) support transformative learning. These might be spaces which are new to us and our students or they may be traditional educational spaces which we use in new ways. They might be curricular or extra-curricular; physical, digital, or even metaphorical. Examples of borderland spaces include, the field, undergraduate research conferences, and peer-mentoring spaces. No space is necessarily a borderland space. What is important is that these spaces are used to enable genuine dialogue between educators and students to unsettle traditional hierarchies. Our authors discuss the need for us as geography educators to create pedagogic borderlands, what they look like in practice, and how to support students in such spaces. Collectively we see that through navigating these spaces, our students are prompted to develop their own personally-meaningful ways of knowing the world and themselves, along with their self-efficacy and self-regulation. We learn through the chapters in the Handbook the power of constituting educational space ontologically, epistemologically, and practically as borderland ‘contact zones’.
2. Embracing partnership working
Partnership working signals a move away from faculty-centred education. It forefronts both the student and how learning is co-created. Working together in a more equal way supports meaningful engagement in teaching and learning by students and faculty. Often partnership working also includes others too, such as community organisations or employers. Authors in the Handbook demonstrate in their case studies the increase in students’ motivation, confidence, and sense of intellectual agency which these relationships bring, as well as building their impact on students’ sense of their academic identity and sense of belonging (p.477). Partnership working between faculty and students can contribute to creating a pedagogic borderland. Partnership working with people and organisations beyond the university has huge potential for our students to learn and apply geography in authentic settings. In doing so educators support students to develop a potent combination of geographic skills and knowledge, what can be thought of as ‘geo-capabilities’ to advance human capabilities, wellbeing and agency (Walkington et al; 2018).
3. Acknowledging the whole student
The third principle focuses our attention both on what we hope to achieve as educators and what our students require to be able to learn effectively. Our authors are interested in students learning to make sense of the world, but also contributing to solving pressing social and environmental challenges. Developing geographic understanding is necessary but not sufficient to do so and we must engage with our students’ emotions, values, and skills too.
Acknowledging the whole student also directs our attention to what supports learning. No one learns well when they feel unsafe, unrecognised, or devalued. As such, we must deliberately design learning environments; classrooms, fieldtrips, and online spaces; with an understanding of how to support positive learning communities and scaffold engagement, as well as working in partnership. We must also acknowledge a tension: learning requires we move beyond what is familiar and comfortable, for example through navigating pedagogic borderlands, heightening the need for care and respect. As educators we must acknowledge the contexts we teach in where we see a huge increase in mental ill-health and poor well-being. In this context, and recognising that we ourselves create discomfort by inviting students into pedagogic borderlands, we identify the pedagogies of compassion (p.480) that authors in the Handbook propose. Such pedagogies create welcome and foster feelings of belonging, where we invite our students as people, with emotions, values, and lives before and outside the university, into learning spaces
4. Adopting courageous pedagogies.
The final principle identified throughout the variety of the Handbook is that of adopting courageous pedagogies. This principle responds to our experiences of increasing intensification of university-work and/or accountability regimes that creates a pressure to play it safe. It calls for us as educators to consciously create education that is creative and challenging, to reflect on and evaluate, and to iterate. This call for courageous pedagogy recognises that the transformative learning we want for our students is not inevitable and requires that we, as well as our students, take risks and move beyond what is comfortable.
The four interconnected principles are threads which connect the wealth of discussion and evidence presented from a huge variety of contexts. In their chapters, each author provides contextualised nuance, thoughtful analysis, and useful resources to inform your own education practice. The principles unite our authors, along with their commitment to building geographical learning that is transformative, as a powerful international community of geography educators.
Walkington, H., Hill, J. and Dyer, S (2019) ‘Contents page’ in Walkington, H. Hill, J., and Dyer, S. (eds) Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Geography Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA pp.v-vii Edward Elgar Publishing pp. 474-484. [Accessed 25th July 2020 at https://www.elgaronline.com/view/edcoll/9781788116480/9781788116480.00003.xml ]
Hill, J., Walkington, H. and Dyer, S. (2019) ‘Teaching, learning, and Assessing in Geography: foundations for the future’ in Walkington, H. Hill, J., and Dyer, S. (eds) Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Geography Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA Edward Elgar Publishing pp. 474-484. [Accessed 25th July 2020 at https://www.elgaronline.com/view/edcoll/9781788116480/9781788116480.00044.xml ]
Walkington, H., Dyer, S., Solem, M., Haigh, M. and Waddington, S. (2018) ‘A capabilities approach to higher education: geocapabilities and implications for geography curricula’ Journal of Geography in Higher Education 42 (1), pp. 7-24.